After two years, new pictures and information from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are finally coming to light. Thanks to the efforts made by environmental advocate Greenpeace, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released 300 photos taken in 2010 between April 20th and July 30th. Greenpeace filed a request in August of 2010 in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace asked that any information related to endangered and threatened Gulf species be released. Finally after years of waiting, Greenpeace received the first batch of files in the form of these shocking pictures.
The pictures depict oil-drenched turtles, boxes and trash bags full of dead turtles, unhealthy turtles with cysts, dead turtles found on the beach, as well as sperm whales swimming through oil slicks. The photos reveal the other side of the optimistic view portrayed by federal officials and BP spokespeople at the time of the spill. For instance, photos were released of turtles from the gulf being saved and reintroduced to the wild.
By the time the spill was contained, NOAA said it recovered 613 dead sea turtles from the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Of those they relocated 274 turtle nests to Florida regions. There are five turtle species in the Gulf of Mexico; four of which are endangered and the fifth species are listed as threatened. Besides the obvious damage to the Gulf’s wildlife and the ecological health of the Gulf, 11 workers died.
On Friday May 4th, 2012 BP won a huge delay for a civil trial that will assign damages from the disaster. The new trial date is set for 2013. Given that this is the worst marine spill in United States history, BP is getting off easy by offering settlements for private parties outside of court. Unfortunately, the private settlements affect only private parties and have no effect on the interests of the federal government of Gulf Coast states. The United States government and the state of Alabama have asked that the trial not be postponed beyond the coming summer. If BP is granted further delays they may never have to answer to or be liable for the damages caused. For instance, Mother Jones published reports of eyeless shrimp, toxic beaches, dead dolphins, and Gulf oysters full of heavy metals.
In March 2012, BP agreed to pay an estimated $7.8 billion dollars in damages to private plaintiffs, whose claims ranged from clean-up related injuries, economic loss, and property damage. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that criminal charges might still be filed for the Macondo blowout, which caused the most damage. Already BP Plc engineer Kurt Mix has been arrested as of April 24th, 2012. He was charged with intentionally destroying evidence about the size of the spill.
While hundreds of lawsuits have been filed, including hundreds against BP, the Swiss based operator of the rig, Transocean, and Halliburton, which provided the cementing services. The potential trial will cover federal and state government pollution claims. But more needs to be done.
Investigations have shown that there were lax regulations of the rig and BP was more concerned with cost cutting rather than worker safety and environmental protection. The government is complicit in such violations unless regulations are enforced to enhance blowout preventers and upgraded safety devices. To encourage Congress and President Obama to pass legislation holding the oil industry accountable and reforming regulatory processes, check out this petition from Public Citizen. It will protect workers and the environment from extraordinary disasters like the one in the Gulf. It will prevent its effects, which we are still learning of everyday.
Photo credit: nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/images/oilspill/kempsridleyturtle_brianstacy_noaa_gadnr.jpg